Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fwd: Drive up Zomba Mountain

We took the Zone Leaders, Elder Hewlett and Elder Dowse to Liwonde (2 hrs. away) to teach some discussions.  First picture is Bro. Chisambo and 3 of his children.   We were done earlier than usual so on the way back we drove up Zomba Mountain to show them the view.  It was Elder Hewlett's last week as he is finished his mission.  We will miss him.  There is a beautiful dam part way up.  We stopped and took a few pictures until someone came along and wanted to charge us for looking at the view.  Hmmm.....        There were also vendors all along the way that wanted to sell raspberries (don't taste nice like ours at home), strawberries (mostly small but nice tasting) and some passion fruit (tasty).  Of course, whenever anyone sees our white faces the prices triple.  We never pay what they ask though and usually get a fair price. 

May 26th Baptism

Andrea was a guard here at our complex but now he works for Gabriel, who supplies the guards for our missionary flats and the Church buildings.    We started giving him Liahonas and pamphlets quite some time ago and then we referred him to the missionaries who have been teaching him and his wife.  Her English isn't so good so it did take some time.   He was suppose to be baptized last month but he came late and missed the baptism but it was nice that he was able to be baptized along with his wife yesterday.    They have 5 children and recently brought the two older children (relatives) from the Village because they were orphaned recently.  


It never ceases to amaze us as we see the things people carry on their heads and especially the weight of some of those things. 

Things we see as we drive

These are just some of the typical sights we see as we drive between Blantyre and Lilongwe.   There is a lot of bicycles and people walking.  We have to be so careful as there is generally no shoulder on the road and they don't always watch for vehicles.    We see a lot of vendors and can generally get some really good deals for vegetables and fruit when we are in the rural areas.  We got a dozen natjes (mandarin oranges) for about 50 cents and a plastic bag full of eggplants for about a dollar.   
This is the season for harvesting the maize so we see a lot of that being transported and sold.  
The grass is very long now and they do try and clear the sides of the road and that is done with slashers and then it is often burned as well.  Lots of smoke will be in the air for the next few months. 

Poisetta blossom

Poinsetta season

There are lots of Poinsetta bushes/trees blossoming right now.  They grow big (at least 15 ft. tall) and are a very pretty.  There are different colors and varieties.


We saw several of these on the wall along the driveway of the house we are moving into.  Samson got one down for us.  It was really interesting.  It was like a heavy brown paper on the outside and then there was a thick layer similar to insulation.  It was hard to tear into but when he did we saw the nest of dozens of caterpillars which will eventually turn into butterflies of some sort.   Samson did not want to touch the caterpillars because he said they will make you very itchy.  He also said that some people like to eat them.   Apparently they feed on the leaves of a tree that is on the other side of the driveway and then they crawled down and across the driveway and up the wall where they made their cocoon.  

The house we are moving to very soon.

We have been given notice to move from our current 'nice' home and are sad to have to leave.  They want to rent the whole complex to a company and they want all the flats or nothing.  So..... we must go!  
We rented a house a few months ago and the Zone Leaders have been staying there.  We decided to shift around some missionary companionships and we will move in to that house.  It is older but should be comfortable.  We had it fumigated for pests yesterday and tomorrow we have a couple of ladies going in to clean and we will also have it painted with some good washable paint.  By the end of the week we should be able to start moving a few things over.   It is in a safe neighborhood and we hope we won't have any security issues. 

We saw these guys running along the road

We were driving home from Liwonde last week and came across these two guys.  We have no idea what it was all about but we did turn around and take a picture, even though it is a bit blurry.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

PEC Meeting today

This morning President Bullock went to PEC meeting in one of our branches here in Blantrye.   When he got there he ask where everyone was. 
Where was the Young Men's President?  He's less active.
Where is the Branch mission leader?  He's moved to Lilongwe
Where is the 2nd counsellor in the Br. Presidency?  He's less active.
Where is the Sunday School President? He died.  (4 or 5 months ago)
In another Branch the counsellor wants to be the President since he doesn't think the President makes good decisions.
We still have work to do here!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lasar Trap

And you thought the Calgary Police officers were!
I took my car (Toyota Hilux is called a car here) to Toyota for service yesterday morning.  The Zone Leaders had to pick me up so I could get home.  On the way back, Elder Dowse got pulled over for speeding.  The officer writing the fines ($5,000 kwacha) did not know how fast we were going, only that we were there, so we were speeding.  (5000 mk was 29 U.S. dollars until last Monday and then the kwacha was devalued by 60%.  Now it is $18.)  We went over to where the Lasar operator was working and he pulled up the picture of our car on his lasar.  Elder Dowse was going 65 kph in a 60 zone!!!!!  The guy that got pulled over, as we were watching, was going 63!!!!!!!!!!!!  He said the stop people for going 61!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Can you believe that??????  
I told them (there was 3-4) that I had been a police officer for 27 years and never wrote a ticket for such minimal speeds.  I asked if this young missionary could get a break, and was flatly turned down.  In these African countries, you have to pay the fine on the spot.  I asked them what we process was to contest the fine?  He said they seize the vehicle and you set a court date.  I got a little stern with him, and he asked me if I was the driver.  When I told him I was not, he said we only talk to the driver.  Elder Dowse (bless his speeding heart) said he was the driver, and President Bullock speaks for me, but the guy would not budge.  He sent us over to talk to the guy we first talked to. 
I again explained that this young man is a missionary and he had no extra money.  He asked me how fast we were going and when I told him 65, he said that was 5 over.  If it had been 2 kph over he could have done something.  I told him we wanted to go to court, but could not have the car confiscated.   He called another officer (who had to sit in the front seat next to the driver, according to their laws) to take us over to the police station to make a statement and then to go to the prosecutor's office to set a court date, maybe for that day. 
When we got to the police station, we were directed into a small room, with 4-5 police officers and three empty seats.  We all sat down and started chatting.  Of course, the topic turned to me being a police officer and having written thousands of tickets and never writting a ticket for such a minor speed, I had lots of training in using the lasar, I told them we wanted to contest this in court.  I told them every lasar had an error factor, every speedometer was not exact, and people cannot watch the speedometer exclusively as they are driving; compound that with going down hill, and it is difficult to imagine giving someone a ticket for 5 kph over.  The officers started talking in Chichewa, but I could pick out "court" and 5 Kilometers", so I figured they were not to interested in going to court with someone who would have some knowledge about the situation.  So, I added that this young man was a missoinary, and did not have any extra money to pay fines.  When I said that, they officer in charge asked why I did not say he was a missionary before...they could just warn him this time to not over speed again.  I told them that would be great and thank you for your kindness.  We all shook hands and they let us go.  I think that is the first time we have been able to talk ourselves out of a ticket, and it wasn't even mine.
No more complaining over a ticket for 20 over, all you guys and gals!
Happy motoring....
Jim and Nancy

Our First MRA experience

MRA stand for Malawi Revenue Authority.   We have to go their by the 14th of each month now to pay Withholding tax on the flats we rent for the missionaries.   We first met with a man who helped us out with one that we weren't sure about.  We have one landlord who is not happy that we are paying the withholding tax as it seems like he is trying to avoid paying it.  This fellow phoned him and explained it to him for us.  I'm sure he wasn't happy to get a call from an MRA person but he didn't want to listen when Jim called him.    
Jim and I were sitting for a minute to fill out a couple of  forms and a fellow that was sitting right there at a desk ask if he could help us.  We were happy for the help.   He explained how to do everything in detail as he filled out the forms for us.   His name was Alfred and when he was finished he ask where our Church was and of course, we invited him to come.
We then headed to the payment queue and it was rather long.  After about an hour and 15 minutes, Alfred showed up and asked, "Are you still waiting to pay?"   He took our stuff and went straight up to the window and paid it for us, probably saving us at least another hour in the queue.   We met him outside and gave him 500 kwacha ($2.00)  for helping us.   He then ask if we were driving and said he was needing a ride back to work.  I told him that I thought he was working at MRA.  Apparently he was just sitting at the desk where we found him filling out his own stuff.    We appreciated his help and were glad to give him a ride as it was on our route anyway.    He gave us his phone number and offered to help us next time if we wanted him to.   Nice young man!!   Next month we will go earlier in the month and first thing in the morning to avoid the queue!    Live and learn! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday, May 9th

Well we are not happy missionaries!   We have to move from this lovely flat that we live in.    The Brazilians that are coming to build a railway in Malawi want all 6 flats or none at all and the owners really need to fill up the other flats in here.  In our lease it allows them to give us a 1 month notice to vacate.  Our landlord, Lodzani, that we really like, is feeling terrible about having to do this but is getting pressure from the 'board' members.   Lodzani is even trying to find us a nice place to move to.
I think we have pretty much decided that we will move the Zone Leaders out of the house they are in and we will move into it.  It is older but it is okay.  The kitchen isn't great but it will do.   We actually rent 3 places from the landlord of the ZLs house and he is really good so maybe we can convince him to renovate the kitchen a bit since couples will now be staying there.  It is a fairly new rental for us.  It is in a safe neighborhood.  It has a nice yard and it has 2 single garages which we are already using for storing mission materials, etc.    Anyway .....  we are sad to have to move and hate the thought of having to pack everything and move again.  We thought the couples would be staying here in this flat for a long time to come.  :(
The Taggarts just went home this week and so Jim has been changed from the 2nd counsellor in the mission presidency to the 1st counsellor.  Elder Prete is the 2nd counsellor now. 
We have a couple of missionaries we'd like to strangle right now that are making a bit of a headache but ......... we aren't allowed!!       Really, we have some good missionaries and they work hard.  We enjoy them.
We will carry on........

Monday, May 7, 2012

Malawian kwacha devalued today

There has been talk about devaluing the kwacha but today it happened.  It went from 165 kwacha/$1.00 and now it is 265 kwacha/$1.00.   A store called Game (the one that was bought out by Walmart and few months ago) was closed this afternoon so that they can change all their prices.  We were told everything will go up by 60%.  The grocery store was open (thank goodness) and the missionaries were able to do their shopping for the week.  I think they shopped for 2 weeks since tomorrow their prices will jump dramatically too.    We also went shopping and spent most of the kwacha that we have and stocked up on meat and canned goods mostly.  We spent about $350 worth.  Thank goodness we have a little chest freezer. 
As people got off work and hurried to the grocery store it was very busy and some things were disappearing off the shelves. Everyone is taking advantge before tomorrow.    It is the Malawians that will really suffer.  I have no idea what this is going to do to the people here who already struggle to make enough to feed their families.  People will lose jobs too.    
We are just fine because we have some U.S. dollars.  We don't know what the black market exchange rate will be now -- it will take a week or two to sort itself out probably.     I suppose with a bit of time things will settle down and be okay again, at least we sure hope so.   We know what happened in Zimbabwe and sure hope Malawi doesn't do the same.

Picture on trip home from Liwonde

I forgot to attach this to my email I just sent. 

Road home from Liwonde

The rainy season is finished now and the grass is very tall.  They will start slashing it down along the roads or burning it.  Soon the air will be filled with smoke here and will be that way until rainy season comes again because they do so much burning.   We have seen some burning starting already. 
Notice the lady in the picture wearing a wrap around her waist.  All  the ladies wear those.  It is called a 'chitenje'.   They always have one with them and wear it to keep their skirts clean from the dust, also they spread it so they can sit on the ground, and to wrap around their shoulders if they are cold.  It isn't very often that you see them without their chitenje.    I have one that the district R.S. President gave me.  We had gone to a funeral and it is a must when at a funeral and so she had one ready for me.  I also bought a nice one and I took it to Church with me yesterday thinking it might be a bit cool there (it wasn't).    The ladies at Liwonde don't speak English but I showed it to them (folded up on my lap).  They then proceeded to let me know that I should put it on.  I did and then they laughed because I didn't have it just right and they showed me how to do it. 
After Sacrament meeting is over the ladies all get off their chairs and sit on the cement floor on their chitenjes.  I think they are so used to sitting on the ground and stretching out their legs that it is more comfortable for them and perhaps cooler too.  The men stay on their chairs.  It is interesting.  The men sit on one side of the room and the women on the other.  We have encourage husbands and wives to sit together with their family and sometimes they will (maybe just when we are there).  There are many more men than women (most due to the fact that so many women can't speak English).   Church in Liwonde is done in both languages but I think when we aren't there is is likely all done in Chichewa but all the material is in English.  
I have learned a few (very few) words in Chichewa and it makes people (especially the ladies in Liwonde) so happy when I can use it.  When they say 'mulibwanji' (How are you?)  I can say 'ndilibwino kayainu' (I am fine, and you?).    Then they answer  'ndilibwino'.  They clap and smile! 
 Thank you very much is:  zikomo kwambiri.    Instead of knocking on someone's door you say 'Odi'  and they say 'Luwani' (come in).  Tionana means 'we'll meet again'.      I wish I could speak the language but......   It took me two weeks to learn 'ndilibwino kayainu' and to be able to remember it.  My tongue just couldn't quite get it right but I said it over and over and over again and finally got it down.  
We had a good day in Liwonde.  We always like going there.  Two young men (20 yrs. old) were ordained Priests.  The church records are not the greatest here.  Some were baptized but there are no records recorded in the Church -- just not sent in and some are lost.  It is a real challenge.  Maybe one day it will all get sorted out.   They use different names here often and so it can be a challenge to find what name it was recorded under.  Geneology is almost impossible and will have to be done in the millenium.  They don't necessarily use the father's surname.  There are seldom birth certificates.   I don't know how they ever keep track of people.  It is so confusing. 
We are off to Immigration this morning to drop of some applications for TEPs for 5 missionaries.  It is Preparation day for the missionaries and we will pick up the Sisters at the store when they are finished shopping. 
It is a good thing that the complex we live in has proved to be safe.  I think the guards are pretty useless and sleep most of the night.  Last evening when the Zone Leaders came they had to honk, bang on the gate, honk some more..... and finally one of the guards woke up.  The other guard was drunk.  Jim went over and the guy attempted to wake up and get up but fell back down.   We called the landlord and he came and got him and said it was his 3rd time so.......      We are also going to ask if it is possible to have at least one guard who can speak English in case something were to happen and we needed to communicate with them.  :)   The problem is that the men that can speak English can usually get a better job that pays more. 
We are doing just fine.  Some days we wish we could be here with these people forever and other days .........
The Gospel is true and we are happy when we are sharing it with others and changing lives. 
Love to all,  The Bullocks 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Extension ladder

They know how to make anything work here when they don't have the real thing.  This ladder may make me a bit nervous though but this is how it's done.